Frankly Speaking | Cricket

Dhoni’s journey as a cricketer is an inspiration

A leader is the one who makes an impact and provides inspiration. M.S. Dhoni exemplified these qualities.

His tact and calm persona made a significant impact on the entire team in tense situations resulting in victories. He stood by his players and gave individual attention and influenced them in a positive way. One can only lead by example and Dhoni’s journey as a cricketer and captain is an inspiration.

The quintessential leader announced his decision to step down as the captain of the Indian team. Knowing his character, this shouldn’t come as a shock at all. He is the one who dictates terms. Just like his patent helicopter shots he has impeccable timing in all his decisions. One should not be surprised if he announces his retirement at the end of the ODIs against England.

Dhoni has always made well thought-out decisions with the best interest of Indian cricket in his mind. When it comes to ‘Captain Cool’, we need to read between the lines and understand the implications. Dhoni indicated that he would not want to be a liability to the team by blocking the position of wicketkeeping for a promising youngster. Though Dhoni is still invaluable to the team, he will not hesitate to retire if he feels that’s the best for the team.

Dhoni’s foresight and evaluation are commendable. He believed in Virat Kohli’s capabilities and gave him enough time to ease into the role of captain in Tests. Now that Virat has proven himself as a leader, this was the perfect time for Dhoni to hand over complete control to the successor. He has no qualms about being under Kohli’s captaincy. This in itself shows his character. By allowing Kohli to call the shots and yet be accessible to him for advice, will surely help India immensely.

Pragmatic approach

Dhoni’s pragmatic approach and sensibilities invoke respect. One of the shrewdest cricketing brains, former England captain Mike Brearley wrote to me, “Dhoni is a terrific batsman, who always seems calm and confident. That helps to captain the team. He played the game in an excellent spirit and has clearly been respected by his team. He is a very competent and canny wicketkeeper.”

Dhoni has a simple theory about leadership. Speaking to sports psychologist Dr. Rudi Webster for his book, ‘Think Like A Champion’, Dhoni says, “The captain must lead by example to gain trust, respect and support his team. The people I lead carry the expectations of 1.2 billion people. So, I help them by keeping everything as simple as possible and by creating an atmosphere that will give confidence and motivation to each and everyone to do his best.”

Now, Virat Kohli may have a different theory. In order to test and strengthen his theory, it would be better to have the majority of players under him. Fortunately, he befits all the formats. With quite a few new players, Dhoni perhaps felt this was the right time to hand over the baton. By spending more time with them, Kohli will be able to build a strong team under him.

Dhoni acknowledged his reservations about the spilt-captaincy in Indian cricket. I completely agree with him. The very base of leadership is teamwork and that’s not easy in a team which has players from different religion, cast and creed belonging to different regions. Diversity in cultural environment plays a major role in the upbringing of individuals from different States. To create a tight-knit unit in this scenario is a herculean task.

Ajit Wadekar, during his tenure, managed to do just that for a couple of years. But in 1974, a seed of groupism was sowed unknowingly and the team spirit evaporated in England. The fact that Dhoni has managed a team for a decade in both the formats is significant for India’s constant high ranking.

Even Pataudi once said that it’s not easy to lead any Indian team in any sports because of their difference in approach. Stereotypically, players from the North tend to be more aggressive whereas the players from the West or the South are more rational. He compared the approach of two all-rounders: Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri. Kapil Dev had aggression in his veins whereas Ghavri belonged to Mumbai way of thinking.

Ghavri made his Test debut under Pataudi who once told him on the rest-day of the Test against the West Indies that he should assess the situation and play. Ghavri had a big match-winning partnership with Gundappa Viswanath that helped India win the Test. He curbed his aggression. Instances like these demonstrate the prominence of a good captain in the team.

“Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you are gone, it’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you are here that then happens to live on.” M.S. Dhoni surely seems to believe in this mantra. His unparalleled legacy and character is an inspiration to all.

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Printable version | May 31, 2022 4:23:20 pm |